By TRAVIS CLARK
Professional soccer has returned to Tampa Bay. Saturday evening's home opener witness the rebirth of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and gave fans a taste of the USSF Division 2 League, as the home side drew 2-2 against the Austin Aztex.
A sold out crowd of 8,082 was on hand in what turned out to be an entertaining and back-and-forth encounter. The home side went up through Aaron King's 10th-minute penalty, before Austin hit back for two. Eddie Johnson converted a free kick in the 28th minute, and Austin took the lead and grabbed a man advantage when Tampa Bay defender Rob Valentino was sent off for handling the ball on his goal line.
Jamie Watson dispatched the ensuing penalty, and just when it look like Austin would play the spoiler role at Tampa Bay's home opener, Stanley Nyazamba won a penalty that World Cup-bound Jeremy Christie scored to earn the home side a point.
Here's a look at the rest of the weekend's USSF D-2 action:
BALTIMORE EARNS FIRST POINT IN VANCOUVER
Game two of Crystal Palace Baltimore's five-game road trip translated into the first points of the 2010 campaign for the cellar dwellers. Making the trip up to the Northwest in the first game of a two-game swing, Baltimore shut down Vancouver's struggling offense to draw 0-0. Randy Edwini-Bonsu and Marcus Haber couldn't break the deadlock as Palace 'keeper Evan Bush posted the club's first clean sheet of the season, and Baltimore's first point in the second division.
MONTREAL TRIUMPHS OVER MINNESOTA IN THE DYING MINUTES
NSC Minnesota came so close to putting a two-game losing streak to bed. Up 1-0 late against Montreal Impact, a second road win was there for the taking. A tight, defensive performance, combined with a timely goal by Brian Cvilikas had Minnesota in pole position. But a defensive collapse meant Minnesota's effort was all for nothing, as Rocco Placentino's brace — including the winner in the 94th minute — earned the Impact a 2-1 win.
ROCHESTER BEATS ST. LOUIS
On a cold and windy night in upstate New York, only 1,447 brave souls showed up at Marina Auto Stadium as Rochester looked to best A.C. St. Louis and the 50 mph wind gusts. Anthony Hamilton put the hosts in front with a tally late in the first half. St. Louis, winless on the road, got back into the game with the aid of the heavens, when Rhinos 'keeper Scott Vallow misjudged a Dillon Barna free kick from midfield that bounced over Vallow's head and into the net. Rochester managed to overcome the elements and St. Louis' defense, as Ryan Heins scored the game winner in the 74th minute.
MIAMI DRAWS FOURTH STRAIGHT
Miami's bid to end a streak of ties and earn a first win on the season, was once again denied in the later stages of the game. This time it was the Carolina Railhawks, who snatched an 83rd minute equalizer to come away with a point in a 1-1 draw. Both sides battled through a 0-0 first half, with each side unable find a breakthrough. Former Railhawk goalie Caleb Patterson-Sewell kept a clean sheet on his old club, and after Abe Thompson's goal early in the second half, a maiden win was in reach of the Blues. Unfortunately, Patterson-Sewell misplayed a late Carolina free kick that allowed Josh Gardner to save a point for the visitors.
What did you think of this week's action? Who impressed you? Which players do you see drawing interest from MLS?
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